SHE SAID: Well, you have made it to the big "65." Now you can finally get back some of that money that has been deducted for the last 50 years, but you tell me you are going to wait another year to collect Social Security. I guess I can see why you want to keep earning money while you can. It is nerve-wracking to think about surviving just on retirement income. Should you have a new appellation now, maybe instead of just a Boomer, you are now a "Re-Boomer" or "KaBoomer?" HE SAID: It seems like we name everything. Another name would make everything even more confusing. We know that you and I are Baby Boomers, and we were followed by the Gen X kids, who were followed by the Gen Y or Millennials, and now the generation after the Millennials is being called the Boomlets. The last one puzzles me because no one our age has been having children in the last 12 years. Ah, but the Millennials are the offspring that we have created and what do you think they will say we did for them? We knew our parents and grandparents saved the world, but what have we done for the world lately?SHE SAID: Getting all philosophical now, huh? I think we did a lot with our desire to embrace more of the world than those who came before us. We were the ones who helped usher in a new age for civil rights, women's rights, and individuality. We embraced ideas like the Peace Corps and Vista. We enjoyed a good job market and contributed creativity and productivity to push the U.S to the top of the world marketplace.Somewhere, though, things have gotten skewed. The Urban Institute, in its latest research, notes that the Gen Xers and Millennials have amassed less wealth than we had at their age. The average net worth of someone aged 29 to 37 has fallen 21 percent since 1983; the average net worth of someone aged 56 to 64 has more than doubled. For the first time in modern memory, notes Anne Lowrey in a recent New York Times column, "...a whole generation might not prove wealthier than the one that preceded it."At least we have retirement income. I wonder what the future will hold for the increasing numbers of people who are currently working for businesses that offer no retirement plan or for the large numbers of young people who cannot find jobs. The unemployment rate is 17 percent for those 20-24 years old. Will Social Security survive to provide a retirement income for our children? On the other hand, Lowrey points out, the Millennials are the best educated generation ever. Will that make a difference?HE SAID: Hopefully it will, for the reality is that all generations need to provide for their retirement years. However, we Boomers are not a very good example of how to do this. The FDIC, in a report on retirement, said: "Although the Social Security program is designed only as a supplement to other sources of income, during 2003 the majority of senior Americans relied on Social Security as the source for at least 80 percent of their income."For many Boomers, Social Security is their only retirement income. Health care becomes one of the biggest costs and will either eat away life savings or will assure that future generations will receive no benefit from the Boomer generation other than higher taxation to pay for excessive medical costs. Many of the Millennials I have talked with about the future realize that there is no way the government is going to be able to provide for all these needs, and, thankfully, as difficult as it is for them, the Millennials may be the generation that comes to grips with these problems and comes up with good solutions.SHE SAID: One thing that should help is freer access to information. When you can learn how people across the globe deal with the same problems or how medical costs vary, it helps to galvanize thought and begin dialogues. We Boomers need to keep volunteering our funds and time to help others. Maybe we can become better examples to the younger generations of how to manage our wealth as a nation so everyone benefits more equally.The Skinners hope that retirement does not become a time of consternation rather than relaxation. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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